Everydayhealth.com Flu Map

GIS makes tracking flu just a tad easier!

GIS Use in Public Health & Healthcare

EverydayHealth.com posted a flu map of the United States to show flu-risk trends and predictions. You can either click on your state and county or enter your zip code to see how your area rates. The map is color coded with mild risk and predictions colored white, moving to moderate risk with a turquoise color, then leading to severe with pinks and then red as the most dangerous.

Screen shot 2015-03-30 at 11.51.34 AM“Our methodology takes into account current and historical CDC data, rising and falling interest in flu on social media and in online searches, and local and regional weather information. The flu map predicts flu severity county by county across the United States so you can plan ahead and take precautions to avoid the flu – both at home and in places where you plan to travel” (everydayhealth.com)

Go and check out the map by Everyday Health!

Posted by Eva Gerrits…

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The More You Know : GIS in Law Enforcement

GIS is a complement to law enforcement agencies, boosting the strength to collect and store data to be used and shared amongst agencies.  A map can be created to show when and where a crime occurred and the details within the crime.  Once data is entered into a GIS database, the user can overlay that information with a specific crime, which may reveal the identity of the victim and/or criminal.  Due to the chance that private information may be exposed, users must be aware of confidential and sensitive data.

Law enforcement agencies may use GIS to map registered offenders to compare where the offender lives and the locations of town schools.  Buffers are used to observe how close an offender is to a school.  Buffers are also used when mapping victims issued protection orders to reveal violations or compliance with specified restrictions.

Analysts in law enforcement agencies use GIS to look for patterns and trends to highlight suspicious events that may require further investigation, carry out various policing methodologies to reduce crime, and to forecast future crime occurrences.  Most law enforcement agencies suffer from limited sources, analysts are able to use GIS to efficiently and effectively match demands for service, distributing resources after analyzing crime trends over time.  GIS can model workflow and capture practices (correlating certain types of crime to a time of day or day of week).  This can allow law enforcement agencies to target their efforts to specific locations while being more fully aware.

Here are several success stories how organizations have benefited from using GIS:  http://www.esri.com/industries/public-safety/law-enforcement/success-stories




Exercise your brain, expand your knowledge!

Bet you didn’t even know you enjoyed GIS-related games!  Check out these free online games to exercise your brain and take a break from work!
GeoGuessr   – This game takes you over random locations all over the world.  You’re plopped down in google-street view and you have to figure out where you are!  Compete with friends or play alone.  [[free, no login required]]

GeoSettr – If you got a kick out of GeoGuessr, try your hand in GeoSetter and create your OWN GeoGuessr challenge.

MapToid  – Decipher clues in satellite view to play in this treasure hunt.  Currently there is not event going on (as of 19 December) but follow their Twitter (@maptoid) to be one of the firsts know know when a new event begins!  Happy treasure hunting.  [[free but login is required]]

Mystery Skype  – If you’re a teacher this is a great tool to use to connect with other classrooms all over the world.  Students use their geography skills to guess where the other class is located!

tomnod – Help make a difference!  Tomnod utilizes the power of crowdsourcing to identify objects in satellite images.  Volunteers (you) explore the area solving real-world problems.  Past campaigns have been examingin the ocean to try and find the missing Malaysia airline MH370 and mapping damage done by Super Typhoon Haiyan to help aid first responders and humanitarian groups.

Plesae let me know any great games/interactive websites I’m missing, I’d love to add them to this list.

API – Web Service. What is it?

API – Application Programming Interface

APIs are calls made between applications managed through web services.  Web services are a collection of programming languages used to allow applications to communicate over the Internet.  An APIs job is to run silently in the background, grabbing the information a user needs.

Web services allow different sources to communicate with eachother without time-consuming coding, and it’s not tied to any one programming language.  The first step to utilizing API calls is to create a URL.  Of course, review the documentation beforehand for the API you’re interested in, to make sure you get the output you need.

Usually, an API call will require the use of an API key that keeps track of your requests.  An API key is unique to each user and similar to a password; something you shouldn’t share with other people.

The basic idea of using an API for geocoding involves a locator fuction that attempts to look for matches to the user input and will show a result after the call is made.


1) http://money.howstuffworks.com/business-communications/how-to-leverage-an-api-for-conferencing2.htm

2) http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/Web_Services.html

3) https://gigaom.com/2010/10/29/using-apis-not-quite-as-hard-as-it-looks/

4) http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/api-good-technology-explained/

What is GIS day?

November 19, 2014 is the worldwide celebration of GIS day, recognizing geospatial technology.  There are many events around the world to support GIS day, even here at Texas A&M University we are having three days of GIS-filled activities.


GIS day encourages the use of GIS technology to demonstrate the difference being made in our society with it, incredible advances are being made!

Find GIS day events near you using this website: http://www.gisday.com/index.html

Have fun and learn the amazing capabilities of GIS!


GIS contains spatial data (unlike other information systems).  Spatial data includes coordinates that define geographic objects.  Geodesy was mentioned in the last post. Geodesy is “the science of measuring the shape of the Earth (Bolstad).”  Because it’s hard to perceive the curvature of the Earth on a human scale, we’ve been using flat maps for the majority of our lifetime.  Flat maps distort geometry due to not being able to take into consideration the curvature of the Earth.

A flat map complicates defining coordinates because measurements are affected by the distortion created by flat maps.  The irregular shape of the Earth and imperfect measurements also complicate the defining of coordinates.  Earth is not a perfect sphere shape and is actually very deformed because of natural forces.  Our measurements contain error but with improvements over time and with the sophistication of models, our measurements of positions on Earth improve.

All these differences in defining coordinates cause us to create “several sets of coordinates that define the same location on Earth (Bolstad).”  The points created at a location on Earths’ surface are coordinates that depend on how the points from a flat map are translated onto a curved map surface, what type of reference is used in creating the coordinates and what shape of the Earth is taken into consideration when formulating the measurements for the points.





Bolstad, Paul. (2012).  GIS Fundamentals:  A First Text on Geographic Information Systems.  White Bear Lake, MN:  Eider Press.

New Developments in GIS

            Any changes in the GIS field are based on advancements made in computers, electronic hardware, high speed connections (wireless or wired), and increased intricacy in GIS software and users. Global Navigating Satellite System (GNSS) will change with improved GNSS-receivers, miniaturization of GNSS technology, and system integration.

            GNSS receivers will continue to decrease in price, shrink in size, and increase accuracy, making the technology more appealing to use.  Chip GNSS systems have been getting smaller, some are smaller than the size of a single postage stamp.  These small devices will be able to be easily incorporated into electronic devices such as wrist-watches, allowing outdoor enthusiasts (hikers, runners, and bicyclists) to monitor their location, speed, route, and log miles travelled.  GNSS miniaturization allows the ability to collect more data in the field than in the past.  New systems will add functions to GNSS such as the ability to take photos or videos of a feature, this could allow companies (i.e. utility companies) to easily identify a problem and identify the tools and/or parts that are needed to correct the problem.

            Continents are moving around the Earth on tectonic plates, sometimes at rates of an inch per year (or faster!)  This movement leads to the changes of relative positions over several decades.  Geodesists (a scientist or a technician who engages in inquiry or applies research in the field of geodesy (Bolstad)) must factor in the movements to improve datums (NAD83 and ITRF).  NAD83 is a datum used mostly in North America while ITRF is a datum used by the rest of the world.  Both these datums are Earth-centered systems based on the coordinate location of points and their velocities. 

            Improved remote sensing includes more satellites, higher spatial and temporal resolution, improved digital cameras, and new sensor platforms (Bolstad).  The Pleiades system is an example of this trend of improvements; these two satellites provide daily panchromatic and multispectral imaging.  Aerial cameras are also improving in spatial resolution with higher radiometric sensitivity.  These higher spatial resolutions will aid in many new accomplishments; detailed land surveys, property and asset management, business intelligence, strategic planning, and much more.




Bolstad, Paul. (2012).  GIS Fundamentals:  A First Text on Geographic Information Systems.  White Bear Lake, MN:  Eider Press.

Another Introduction to GIS

There are several definitions used while explaining geographic information systems (GIS).  One of the most popular definitions for GIS is “a computer-based system to aid in the collection, maintenance, storage, analysis, output, and distribution of spatial data and information. (Bolstad)”  GIS helps us gather and use spatial data;  it is concerned with absolute and relative location of features (the where) and it’s concerned with properties and attributes of those features (the what).

GIS quantifies locations by recording their coordinate positions on Earth (latitude/longitude).  GIS tools are essential in business, government, education, and non-profit organizations (Bolstad).  It helps us identify and address environmental problems by providing information on where the problems occur and who are affected by them.  Using GIS we are able to identify the source, location, and extent of environmental impacts.

Advances in three key technologies have helped aid in the development of GIS; imaging, GNSS, and computing.  Cameras these days provide detailed aerial and satellite images, images can be easily converted to accurate spatial information over broad areas.  Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is a positioning technology that’s now incorporated in cars, planes, boats, and trucks. Powerful field computers are now lighter, faster, more capable, and less expensive, allowing spatial data display and analysis capabilities to always be at hand.

Geographic information science (GISci) includes the technical aspects of GIS as well as seeks to redefine concepts in geography in the context of the digital age, making GIS dependent on GISci.  GISci not only investigates technical questions but also explores more basic questions, such as, “How might we best represent spatial concepts? (Bolstad)”





Bolstad, Paul. (2012).  GIS Fundamentals:  A First Text on Geographic Information Systems.  White Bear Lake, MN:  Eider Press.

CyberGIS Center

Dr. Dan Goldberg has won a CyberGIS Fellowship from the NSF-Funded CyberGIS Project!

CyberGIS Center

Congratulations Dan, this is fantastic news!


CyberGIS Fellows program supports the development of cyberGIS education materials and curricula.

CyberGIS has emerged during the past several years as a vibrant interdisciplinary field impacting scientific domains and research areas.